My two year old has graduated from speaking in single words to primitive phrases. She stands in front of me, face twisted in concentration, struggling to string together these thoughts and ideas fast enough to keep up with her busy little mind. For instance, right now I am drinking a strawberry smoothie and my daughter is staring at me, wild with desperation, saying, “Mommy, Zoe strawberry fruit DRINK IT!!” There is a pause after each word as she strains to choose the next one, decides it’s all wrong and goes with something else. “Stthhhhuhhhmmmm DRINK IT!!”
This is how I feel when I’m writing. I am a newcomer to language, clumsy and over eager. Parts of speech mean nothing to me. I’ve never heard of grammar and when I do, I won’t give a rats ass anyway. All that matters is getting out the words fast enough, before the smoothie dries up, disappears into the greedy belly of the adult who secretly knows what you want but insists on hearing you say it anyway.
Then there is the problem of translation. People that do not spend inordinate amounts of time around toddlers (or my child in particular) will hear her say some bizarre string of incoherent syllables and look at me like, “Oh, so you’re teaching her your mothertongue.” For the record, my mothertongue is Telugu and no, Zoe does not know it. She is merely speaking in her unqiue rendition of English.
Like me and my first drafts. It’s all in my my head, so it must be on the paper, and must translate equally well into the heads of strangers.
So then I get agitated and unruly and stomp my feet and wonder why no one understands that I am just trying to say, “I don’t want the sun to rise,” and now that we’re all on the same page can someone please do something about that?
Zoe actually said that this morning. It was a beautiful sunrise on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, and when I pointed out to her the stunning oranges and pinks that streaked across the sky she said, “Mommy I don’t want it sun,” and promptly buried her face in chest. We don’t blame her. It’s an illness that runs through my mother’s side of the family, waking up grumpy, one that has not skipped me.
I’m on the fourth draft of my book. It likely has all the literary merits of an average conversation with a two year old. All I know is that I need to say it and I need to say it right now.